It’s ordination season in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. On May 7, Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski ordained four men to the transitional diaconate; two men were ordained priests on May 28; and 18 men were to be ordained to the permanent diaconate on June 4.
Both new priests had a calling to ordained ministry from an early age, but they had completely different paths to the priesthood. Father Donald Morris, 27, was finished with his second year of college when he decided to enter Kenrick-Glennon Seminary. Father Eugene Schaeffer, 57, spent 14 years serving as a permanent deacon for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. In 2019, he entered St. Pope John XXIII Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts, for his priestly formation.
Data gathered by the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) shows that members of the 2022 class of men ordained to the priesthood — diocesan and religious order priests — report that they were, on average, about 16 years old when they first considered a vocation to the priesthood. Nine in 10 responding ordinands (90%) reported being encouraged to consider the priesthood by someone in their life — most frequently, the parish priest, a friend or another parishioner.
Between 39% and 42% of all responding ordinands attended a Catholic school at the K-12 and/or college level. Two in three responding ordinands (65%) participated in a religious education program in their parish, for seven years on average. One in 10 (9%) reported being home schooled.
Seven in 10 responding ordinands participated in eucharistic adoration (74%) on a regular basis before entering the seminary, and a similar proportion (72%) prayed the Rosary. Seven in 10 (74%) were altar servers prior to seminary. And half of responding ordinands (49%) report participating in a “Come and See” weekend at the seminary or the religious institute/society.
Fathers Morris and Schaeffer heard the call to the priesthood in different ways. Father Morris thought about the priesthood from an early age, and the idea persisted on and off all the way through college. In his second year at Rockhurst University, he found himself asking God in adoration: “‘If You tell me Your will, I’ll do it.’ For the first time, I heard God’s voice clearly say in my heart: ‘You already know my will for you.’”
Father Schaeffer often describes his vocation story as something that slowly unfolded over time. “I didn’t have a burning bush moment,” he quipped.
Our new priests and deacons have said yes to their mission of serving the Church in the imitation of Jesus. Each man’s vocation story may be different, but they all responded to the promptings of the Holy Spirit alive in their hearts. Many heard the Holy Spirit speaking through another person, encouraging them to consider a vocation to the priesthood or diaconate.
This Pentecost, we are all called to tune in to the ways the Holy Spirit is prompting us to serve others in our particular place in life. Let’s also be attentive to how the Spirit wants to use us to speak to others — perhaps particularly in encouraging holy vocations.